With growth comes growing pains and lately I’ve been hurting. Nearly every conversation, no matter the subject, seems to two-step back to the same uncomfortable and embarrassing theme—money.
You see, this story begins in the summer of 2008 when going back to the 216, post-grad, was a non-option. I’d done too many internships, gone on too many vacations and witnessed too many fine females to go back from whence I came. So Northwest DC... it was.
Needless to say, the city wasted little time welcoming its newest member to a painful reality. That first month’s rent & security deposit nearly brought on a coronary, and I quickly found myself spending money I didn’t have.
Like a lot of other high-booty Negroes, I wanted to play the part of being grown. By title I was a “young professional,” my income however, said college student minus the ‘dining dollars’ that helped tide me over when money was tight.
On weekends, I struggled with how I was going to eat fine international cuisine on fried bologna money. I often lamented the soaring rents, $18 drinks and the “fake it till you make it” young professional culture that existed here in D.C. I questioned whether I had chosen the right city.
The reports from home didn’t help my state of mind much either. Such-and-such is getting married, and such-and-such just bought a house. With every $100 parking ticket and $85 dinner date, the allure of D.C. was wearing off.
My friends with similar salaries, who chose different locations to start their trek, seemed to be winning the race. They had visible signs of accomplishment, while all I had was Facebook pictures of me “appearing to be balling” (don’t front---I know you’ve taken a misleading picture or two).
Whenever my Lincoln-Navigator-driving, house-buying friends asked me how I was fairing in D.C., I would simply say “I’m good,” internalizing my hostility. Inside, I seethed. I became a hater.
The phrase “cost of living” was my new best friend, and I pulled him out whenever I felt the need. Whenever a friend from another city would tell me of their new material success, I rationalized it with “cost of living.”
New car? Cost of living. New shoes? Cost of living. Hell, new girlfriend? Cost of living. I was so jaded by my own money struggles, it was impossible for me to believe that there were other places where people were having fun and also gaining financial success.
As my rent rose, my salary stayed relatively the same. I mentally graduated from high school to college on the “brokenness scale.” So I waived bye-bye to the overt hating brokie, and said hello to the anti-capitalism militant.
I now shrouded my brokenness behind “the system.” This approach was much more intellectual and far more acceptable. I went from a hater, to a borderline revolutionary overnight. I now conversed with friends over issues such as affordable housing, and went on at length on the pitfalls of gentrification. I was an advocate. A broke advocate, but an advocate nonetheless.
I was chasing an explanation for why I was broke.
Recently, I stopped complaining about how much it costs to live here. I could’ve easily taken my narrow behind right back home, paid $650 a month for rent, and been pushing a nice SUV, right? But much like my other struggling D.C. transplants, I didn’t want that. I wanted the cuisine, the characters and the culture; whether the good or the bad that came with a heavy price tag..
I learned that keeping up with the Jones’ has a funny way of draining all your Benjamins. And to all of you recent graduates, when deciding what you want after college, be careful what you wish for. You just might get it—and the hefty bill won’t be far behind.
More from The Root DC
Austin is writer and also Editor-in-Chief of men’s online lifestyle magazine, The Smugger.